If ever an issue cried out for campaign finance reform in Long Beach, the vote on Tuesday, February 14, on whether or not to ban operation of medical marijuana collectives would be the issue.
Why? Because in excess of $8,000 has poured into the campaign accounts of several council members from businesses and lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry just as we get ready to either heed or ignore the legal advice of our City Attorney Robert Shannon.
Shannon has told the City Council over the past several months that we need to ban the operation of medical marijuana collectives because the court ruled on a case specifically involving the City of Long Beach’s regulation of medical marijuana collectives and held that the City cannot regulate that which is illegal. Marijuana is illegal.
Yes, California allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes grown by “caregivers”, but the court reminded that a “caregiver” is someone who prior to growing and giving marijuana for medical reasons, actually provided care, food, housing, etc., for the person receiving the marijuana. The court specifically references that a marijuana collective of 4 or less is what was envisioned in the Compassionate Use Act – not a big business making tens of thousands of dollars a week selling marijuana grown to several hundreds of members. The medical marijuana collectives and their lobbyists are making big bucks and if Long Beach bans their operation as the City Attorney advises they will lose out of one of the biggest cash cows to hit the city.
Elected officials should not vote on an ordinance or a business contract if they have received money from any party related to the ordinance or the contract. They should also disclose at the time of the vote that they have taken contributions from a party, participant or their agents.
Several cities have enacted laws which disqualifies the council member from participating in decisions affecting his or her campaign contributors. These laws disqualify the council member from participating in certain proceedings if the official has received campaign contributions from a party, participant or their agents within the 12 months preceding the decision. They also require disclosure on the record of the proceeding of all campaign contributions received from these persons during that period. In addition, these laws prohibit solicitation or receipt of campaign contributions during such proceedings, and for three months after the decision, from parties, participants or their agents.
The voters of the City of Los Angeles enacted changes to their charter in 2011 that create new campaign contribution restrictions on contractors bidding on contracts with the City. The changes ban contractors who are bidding on contracts worth $100,000 or more, and subcontractors that are expected to receive at least $100,000 from performing their portion of the contract, from the following:
- Making campaign contributions to any elected City office, candidate for elected City office, or City committee controlled by an elected City official or candidate if the contract requires approval of the Council; and
- Making campaign contributions to any elected City office, candidate for elected City office, or City committee controlled by an elected City official or candidate if the contract requires approval by the elected City office that is held or sought by the person to whom the contribution would be given.
It is time that Long Beach strengthened our campaign finance laws by either the Council putting this issue on the ballot or by taking this issue directly to the voters and getting them to place it on the ballot in the next general election.